• Connect with us on Linkedin

Mexico Not in League with Sinaloa Cartel, Insists Government

The latest in the Mexican government’s series of “myth-busting” blog posts challenges the idea that authorities aren't doing enough to hunt down Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Linkedin
Google +

Guzman heads Mexico’s biggest drug trafficking organization, and is now the most wanted man in Mexico, if not the world. He has been on the run since escaping prison in 2001, and was recently described by an official from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as the biggest drug trafficker in history.

Guzman’s decade of liberty is an ongoing embarrassment to the Mexican government, especially with the emergence of claims over the years that the drug lord was living openly in the mountains of the Sierra Madre. There are stories about him marrying in a public ceremony in a local village, zooming through the region in a convoy of cars, and going out to eat in restaurants accompanied by his entourage.

Meanwhile, there are suspicions that the government is focusing on pursuing members of other drug-trafficking organizations, at the expense of targeting the Sinaloa Cartel. An investigation by the U.S. radio station NPR in 2010 found that the number of Sinaloa members captured is disproportionately low, relative to those arrested from other criminal groups.

All this, together with the rising fortunes of the Sinaloa Cartel, has led to suspicions that law enforcement may be on Guzman’s side, perhaps working to eliminate the Sinaloa Cartel's rivals at the expense of targeting Sinaloan operatives, with "El Chapo's" unofficial blessing.

Even the U.S. government has referenced such doubts; a cable sent by U.S. embassy staff in January 2009 and released by WikiLeaks referred to the “widely held” view that the army was allowing the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels fight it out in Cuidad Juarez. The cable also noted that many thought the government would prefer Sinaloa to win, and that the army and federal police “rarely” had direct confrontations with the drug gangs.

In one previous "myth busting" blog post, the government blamed previous administrations for their "inaction and tolerance" towards crime. The question is whether the Calderon adminsitration deserves suspicion that the Sinaloa Cartel is now facing similar "inaction and tolerance" from the authorities.

It is true that the group probably enjoys close relationships with powerful elements in Mexico’s law enforcement, perhaps more so than its rivals. However, rather than being evidence of a conspiracy, this is more likely a product of the Sinaloa Cartel's longevity and wealth, as well as the fact that it favors a more quiet, low-key approach than groups like the Zetas, who are more prepared to use violence to gain authority.

An important distinction should be made between Calderon’s administration and elements in the army, police, and local government. Clearly it would be impossible for such a famous fugitive to remain at large for so long within his own country without support from some sectors of the security forces. There are many areas of the county where officials, even at the highest levels, are in the pockets of traffickers such as the Sinaloans, but this does not mean that Calderon’s government is backing the Sinaloa Cartel as a matter of policy. This is more a sign of the federal government’s lack of control over their forces than of their complicity with Guzman.

It's also possible that the Mexican government is simply attacking the groups strategically, going after the weakest first and leaving Sinaloa until last. Another factor is that the Sinaloans are simply using corruption rather than violence as their preferred business strategy, in contrast to the Zetas, known for burying scores of people in mass graves. This means by default, the Sinaloa Cartel must attract less attention from authorities, who must prioritize targeting the cartels who use brutal, attention-grabbing tactics that are most disruptive to public security.

U.S. law enforcement may have its own part to play in allowing Guzman to remain at liberty. A group of hackers recently released documents which seemingly showed that in 2009 U.S. authorities had failed to alert Mexican law enforcement about a tip-off that the Sinaloa head and his associates had been gathered at a ranch near the Arizona border. However, this could itself be evidence that the U.S. authorities do not sufficiently trust Mexican forces to feed them information about Guzman.

Recent reports have also placed Guzman outside of Mexico, suggesting that it is increasingly uncomfortable for him to operate in his home country. One unsubstantiated report claimed that the kingpin had moved many of his operations to Argentina, and had been living there for some months until March 2011. More recently, and perhaps more credibly, President Alvaro Colom said that he had repeatedly received intelligence reports saying that Guzman was in Guatemala, and that he was thought to move between Guatemala and Honduras.

In a sign of how deep Guzman’s influence goes, or how far people believe in the drug lord’s boundless ability to corrupt, even Colom appeared to feel the need to emphasize his government is not protecting the Sinaloa leader (Guzman was arrested in Guatemala in 1993). “We are behind him,” said the president, “and if we have not captured him it is simply because the information was incomplete or not timely.”

(See a video accompanying the blog post, below.)

Linkedin
Google +

Media

---

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We also encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, provided that it is attributed to InSight Crime in the byline, with a link to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

InSight Crime Search

The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas

InSight Crime Social

facebooktwittergooglelinkedin

InSight Crime Special Series

The Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo

After the capture of Zetas boss "Z40," Nuevo Laredo is bracing itself for the worst. This investigation breaks down what makes the city such an important trafficking corridor, and what it will take for the Zetas to maintain their grip on the city.

See entire series »

 

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill

Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

Uruguay is poised to become the first country on the planet to regulate the production, sale, and distribution of the drug.

See entire series »

El Salvador's Gang Truce

El Salvador's Gang Truce

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and the Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with

See entire series »

Juarez After The War

Juarez After The War

As a bitter war between rival cartels grinds to an end, Ciudad Juarez has lost the title of world murder capital, and is moving towards something more like normality.

See entire series »

The Zetas And The Battle For Monterrey

The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

InSight Crime delves into the Zetas' battle for Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, getting to the essence of a criminal gang that defies easy definition.

See entire series »

Slavery in Latin America

Slavery in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into modern slavery, looking at how Latin America’s criminal groups traffic human beings and force them to work as slaves.

See entire series »

FARC, Peace and Criminalization

FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The possibility of ending nearly 50 years of civil conflict is being dangled before Colombia. While the vast majority of the Colombian public want to see peace, the enemies of the negotiations appear to be strong, and the risks inherent in the process are high.

See entire series »

Displacement in Latin America

Displacement in Latin America

InSight Crime coordinated an investigation into the new face of displacement in Latin America, where organized criminal groups are expanding and forcing people to flee.

See entire series »

Target: Migrants

Target: Migrants

The growth of organized crime in Mexico and Central America has led to an increase in violence and insecurity across the region, posing challenges to citizens, public security forces, and travelers.

See entire series »

Zetas in Guatemala

The Zetas in Guatemala

Mexico's Zetas have taken Guatemala by storm, and they are testing this country and the rest of the region: fail this test, and Central America sinks deeper into the abyss.

See entire series »

Most Read

US Federal Agents Go After Texis Cartel Leader ‘Chepe Diablo’

US Federal Agents Go After Texis Cartel Leader ‘Chepe Diablo’

US investigators are looking into the bank transactions and the origin of the finances of "Chepe Diablo," who was placed on the country's kingpin list earlier this year. He has important shares in grain importation...

Read more

Colombia's Tax Agency Boss Leaves Country Amid Death Threats

Colombia's Tax Agency Boss Leaves Country Amid Death Threats

The director of Colombia's tax and customs agency has resigned and left the country after stating he had received death threats from a shadowy businessman with alleged ties to Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel and a...

Read more

'El Chapo' Works with Rival 'La Barbie' in Mexico Prison Hunger Strike

'El Chapo' Works with Rival 'La Barbie' in Mexico Prison Hunger Strike

Captured Sinaloa Cartel leader "El Chapo" Guzman has reportedly banded together with rival "La Barbie" to organize a hunger strike from his isolation cell, suggesting the kingpin does not enjoy the run of the prison...

Read more

IDRC9-01